reflections on reflections

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One of the most necessary liberations comes when you discover that what other people think of you is not the same as who you are.

When you can stop identifying yourself with the stories, mistruths and assessments of others, you can also free yourself from a constant inner pressure to appear as you think people want, or expect you to.

But once you know this, another wisdom must be taken on.

You have to understand that other people are not the same as your stories, perspectives or assessments either. That means that whatever you think you know about them can only ever be partial; one aspect, a single angle on a situation way more complex than you’ve allowed for. Whatever you see, know you are blind.

Once these truths are mastered, know also that the story you tell yourself about you, about your own limitations, your acceptance in the world, your abilities or inabilities, is also not who you are. They too are a judgement, blind to the whole you; distorted tales from long distant memories or unintended fabrications from your past. Knowing this allows you to silence your inner critic. It relieves you from the self imposed weight of expectation, the burden of disappointment, the constant sniping at your capability, your value, your contribution, how you come to this world.

This awareness makes space for compassion. Compassion for others and compassion for self.

That’s liberating.

17:9 vision

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I have reading glasses. I have reached a certain age and my body’s ability to contract the muscles in my eyes sufficiently that I can focus close up, has all but gone.

I used to have what is referred to as 20:20 vision. I don’t know what that means really. My long sight is still superb, but gone are the days I can read the ingredients on a jar without help.

I’m typing this on my phone, so find myself peering down my nose through my reading glasses, looking up and over them when I need to, to see what’s around me or to pause to think.

Two seats away, a man is in reverse. He has glasses too, but is clearly short sighted and is peering over his spectacles at a phone held three inches from his nose. He pushes his glasses up to see me.

Across the train gangway, two men are watching programmes on their tablets. One, a subtitled film. His device is on his knees and he is watching through spectacles. The other, watching Top Gear, has no visual aids but is holding his tablet less than six inches from his nose,

My point is, how we see clearly is different. As it is in our everyday lives.

Some struggle to see what’s under their nose. Some see the bigger picture, but the close up details are blurry. Some like to examine closely. Some only see what they want to.

In life, we don’t have 20:20 vision. We can see some things clearly. Others we are blind to. Even in ourselves. In the mirror, if you will. We are just as blind to others too.  To their value, their outlook, their thinking, their struggles, their joy, their feeling, their intent, their magnificence.

We all need glasses… we just don’t know it.

whose embarrassment?


This morning, two guys standing on the train were sniffing. Each drawing bodily fluid up into their sinuses through the medium of sucked in air. Both sniffing independently. Both once every ten seconds or so. Slightly different rates and slightly different resonance. Together almost musical.

I wanted to hand out tissues.

They were seemingly oblivious to their mildly melodic disruption of my thinking time.

The man next to me produced a silent smell.

It left me pondering what embarrasses us; the actions of others or our own? And who does the embarrassment belong to? Are we embarrassed for ourselves or for others having to judge us?

Why are some of us embarrassed by falling over, having a wardrobe malfunction, nose picking, spot squeezing, breaking wind, going red, messy hair, sneezing … and some of us not?

What is that about? Where does it come from? What purpose does it serve? And whose is it?

where have you left traces of yourself?

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As you move through the world you will have touched people. Some you will know. Family. Friends. Colleagues. Loved ones.

These people will recall you. They will feel connected. Your life and theirs inextricably linked through a bond. Maybe the bond is tangible, physical. Maybe it is emotional. Maybe it is transparent, maybe it is just there in the system, felt in the ether.

Others you have touched, you may not even realise it to be so.

In the midst of your own hectic, muddled life, you may have inadvertently dropped little traces of you on your journey. Like a dusting of you, cascading in your wake. Equally you may have deliberately acted, not seeking gain, not cognisant perhaps of the lasting impact or significant consequences that result for that person, or those close to them. You may have done this through…

An impromptu smile
A comforting word
A timely glance
A small act of kindness
Listening when someone needed to be heard
Witnessing someone’s truth
A small but critical thank you
A heartfelt hug
A positive thought

With fairy-like footprints, we invisibly stand in people’s lives, often unaware of those we have touched.

But they remember. They know. They thank you.